What Literature Teaches Us about Emotion

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Literature provides us with otherwise unavailable insights into the ways emotions are produced, experienced, and enacted in human social life. It is particularly valuable because it deepens our comprehension of the mutual relations between emotional response and ethical judgment. These are the central claims of Hogan's study, which carefully examines a range of highly esteemed literary works in the context of current neurobiological, psychological, sociological, and other empirical research. In this work, he explains the value of literary study for a cognitive science of emotion and outlines the emotional organization of the human mind. He explores the emotions of romantic love, grief, mirth, guilt, shame, jealousy, attachment, compassion, and pity – in each case drawing on one work by Shakespeare and one or more works by writers from different historical periods or different cultural backgrounds, such as the eleventh-century Chinese poet Li Ch'ing-Chao and the contemporary Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Literature offers a veritable treasure trove of wisdom and insights about the nature and manifestations of human emotions, yet emotion researchers have been slow to explore this exciting domain. This book represents a groundbreaking attempt to bridge the gap between scientific research and complementary literary insights on emotions. The chapters explore in considerable detail such core emotions as love, guilt, mirth, shame, and compassion, drawing on the work of such literary giants as Shakespeare. The author takes us on an exhilarating journey of discovery of the subtleties, structure, and functions of human emotions using an ingenious approach fusing art and science. This book will be warmly welcomed by all researchers, teachers, students, and professionals interested in understanding emotions, and will be enjoyed by everyone who is fascinated by the intricacies of human emotionality.”
--Joseph P. Forgas, University of New South Wales

“In What Literature Teaches Us about Emotion, leading literary cognitivist Patrick Colm Hogan stages readings of well-selected literary texts illustrating love, grief, mirth, guilt, shame, jealousy, disgust, compassion, and pity. Beyond their thematic resonances, Hogan’s chosen texts serve as a source of knowledge about how human emotions work. Illuminating and suggestive for conversations in affective literary studies, this book lends itself to discussion in the classroom, where the dialogs about texts by means of which we come to understand our responses to the world and to one another take place.”
--Suzanne Keen, Washington and Lee University

“What Literature Teaches Us about Emotion provides an extraordinarily lucid and insightful account of the relevance of the cognitive sciences to literary study, as well as the potential for literary studies to contribute to a genuinely interdisciplinary history of emotion.”
--Evelyn Tribble, University of Otago, New Zealand

"...The book is worth the substantial price for the first two chapters alone.... Hogan’s volume is valuable to a range of psychological and literary scholars and, surprisingly, psychological practitioners.... a powerful source of data for the study of emotion that is there for the taking. The complexity of emotional reactivity to life’s grim prospects is presented in What Literature Teaches Us About Emotion in clear fashion and invites the reader to examine what is being read and respond to it as a source of information about self."
--Dr. David Hargrove, University of Mississippi, PsycCRITIQUES

"What Literature Teaches Us about Emotion is substantial and rich, and a model of rigorous argument."
--George Lăzăroiu, PhD /IISHSS, New York, Review of Contemporary Philosophy

"As good books should, this one provokes a sense of engagement and stimulates dialogue with its reader, and the question it poses in the title is a profound one.... Patrick Hogan’s erudite and lively book leaves such questions open for others to pursue, while itself bringing into fruitful dialogue disparate fields of analysis not often brought together.... This is a refreshingly ambitious book in the sheer magnitude of the task of talking about emotions in literature by using findings from science and history, and seeing literature as a valid and invaluable source for psychological exploration. Hogan lucidly cuts through complexities to important issues. Even if more answers to the question ‘What does literature teach us about emotions?’ may lie beyond its parameters, this book does a valuable service in asking it."
--R. S. White, The University of Western Australia, Parergon - Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Patrick Colm Hogan is a professor in the Department of English at the University of Connecticut. He is also on the faculty of the Cognitive Science Program, the Program in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies and the India Studies Program. He is the author of thirteen books, including The Mind and Its Stories: Narrative Universals and Human Emotion (Cambridge University Press, 2003), hailed by Steven Pinker of Harvard University as 'a landmark in modern intellectual life', and the editor or co-editor of four books, including The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Language Sciences.
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Table of Contents

studying literature, studying emotion
1. Fictions and feelings:
on the place of literature in the study of emotion
2. What emotions are
3. Romantic love:
Sappho, Li Ch'ing-Chao, and Romeo and Juliet
4. Grief:
Kobayashi Issa and Hamlet
5. Mirth:
from Chinese jokes to A Comedy of Errors
6. Guilt, shame, jealousy:
The Strong Breed, Macbeth, Kagekiyo, and Othello
7. From attachment to ethical feeling:
Rabindranath Tagore and Measure for Measure
8. Compassion and pity:
The Tempest and Une Tempête
studying literature shaping emotion:
Madame Bovary and the sublime.
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